Moffat County commissioners make move to ban marijuana businesses

Amendment 64 voter results by precinct:

• Precinct 1 (Craig): Yes — 440, No — 603

Precinct 2 (Craig): Yes — 203, No — 269

Precinct 3 (Craig): Yes — 379, No — 547

Precinct 4 (Brown’s Park): Yes — 28, No — 50

Precinct 5 (Craig): Yes — 347, No — 371

Precinct 6 (Maybell): Yes — 58, No — 84

Precinct 7 (Craig): Yes — 269, No — 296

Precinct 8 (Dinosaur): Yes — 107, No — 83

Precinct 9 (Craig): Yes — 345, No — 269

Precinct 10 (Hamilton): Yes — 42, No — 63

Precinct 11 (Craig): Yes — 241, No — 211

Precinct 12 (Craig): Yes — 164, No — 146

Precinct 13 (Craig): Yes — 179, No — 143

Provisional: Yes — 86, No — 38

Total: Yes — 2,888 (48 percent), No — 3,173 (52 percent)

— The Moffat County Commission on Tuesday unanimously approved the first reading of an ordinance banning commercial marijuana operations in unincorporated areas of the county. If approved on second reading, the ordinance would ban the establishment of marijuana cultivation, product manufacturing and testing facilities as well as retail marijuana stores.

Tuesday’s ordinance was the second piece of marijuana-related action taken by the commission in as many weeks.

Last week, the commission approved a resolution mirroring language already passed by the Craig City Council imposing a moratorium on the use and consumption of marijuana and marijuana products on commercial or industrial zoned properties.

Moffat County Commissioner Chuck Grobe brought the ordinance forward, citing concerns about what could happen if the state fails to meet its July 1 deadline to draft marijuana regulations. That’s the date stipulated in the language of Amendment 64, a state constitutional amendment legalizing marijuana for adults 21 and older. Colorado voters approved the amendment in November.

Grobe said that if the state fails to meet that July 1 deadline, the burden to regulate commercial marijuana operations could fall to cities and counties.

Moffat County Attorney Rebecca Tyree drafted the ordinance and reminded the commission and others that Amendment 64 gives local governments the authority to prohibit commercial marijuana operations through an ordinance or other preferred measure if presented to the public on a general election ballot during an even-numbered year.

“Well, we had an election last year, and in Moffat County, 51 percent of the people voted not to have the amendment passed, 47 percent voted for it,” Tyree said. “Since the vote has already happened, I think we have the will of the people” in place.

But there were some county residents who attended Tuesday’s commission meeting and took exception with Tyree’s comments.

Craig residents Dave and Jill Sentner said the votes of Moffat County and Craig residents on Amendment 64 is open to interpretation.

When the results are broken down by Moffat County’s 13 precincts, Amendment 64 was approved by voters in five of them, including in precincts 8, 9, 11, 12 and 13. The boundaries of all of those precincts touch the center of the city of Craig, with the exception of Precinct 8, which is located in Dinosaur.

In addition, the Sentners asked why the commission was working so hard to demonize marijuana considering the medical marijuana industry’s economic impact across the state. The Sentners said medical marijuana pumped $200 million into the Colorado economy and $2 million into Routt County’s economy last year alone.

“I, for one, am just sick of hearing all this talk about banning and prohibiting — I mean, good lord, this is America. People want to take our guns and we’re fighting that,” Dave Sentner said. “People want to earn a living with marijuana, we should let them because people earn a living with alcohol and tobacco, and I don’t agree an ordinance is the right course of action.”

Tyree said a resolution provides little in the way of enforcement, whereas an ordinance provides the Moffat County Sheriff’s Office with the authority to impose fines — $600 per violation — and allows criminal prosecution against offenders.

Commissioner Tom Mathers explained it in other words.

“I think all this ordinance does is give the sheriff some teeth when it does happen to be able to stop it,” he said. “It’s like when the sheriff came in and asked for an ordinance to enforce the fire ban because a resolution gave him no fines or penalties to enforce it.”

The ordinance does not affect medical marijuana dispensaries already established in Moffat County, Tyree said.

The ordinance next will be published in the Craig Daily Press. Once published, the public will have 10 days to review the ordinance and provide comments before the commission can take final action.

Joe Moylan can be reached at 875-1794 or jmoylan@craigdailypress.com

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